Sunday, 10 January 2010

354: Gay Cowboys - 1920s and 1930s


“The Soilers” 1923
Directed by Ralph Ceder
Written by Hal Conklin and H.M. Walker
Stan Laurel
George Rowe as camp cowboy

This was intended as a parody of another cowboy western “the Spoilers”. Rather unexpected is the sudden entrance of this unnamed effete cowboy. In the first scene he skips in, fussily picks up the gun with an almost girlish joy, then skips back out, oblivious of everything else.
In the second scene he’s in the window casting moony gazes at Laurel, “My Hero”.
So here we get a mincing ultra-sissy, who is so very out of place in the rough and tumble world of the cowboy western. Since he doesn’t really interact with any one he isn’t actually mocked.

“A Wanderer of the West” 1927
Directed by R.E. Williamson and Joseph E. Zivelli
Written by Arthur Hoerl, W. Ray Johnston and Victor Rousseau
Al Rogers as Clarence

This is a cameo in the 1927 silent film “Wanderer of the West”.
Clarence (Clarence and Leonard were frequent giveaway names for gay men) is announced by a title card which says: "One of Nature's mistakes in a country where Men were Men".
The brief excerpt which features in the film of “The Celluloid Closet” has Clarence

amply ogling another cowboy,

fussily brushing him down,

then leaning on the cowboy’s shoulder and casting up his eyes.
Title card: “I wonder if you’re going out with the boys tonight”.
The cowboy does a rapid double-take then irritatedly pushes Clarence away. Which will always remain good for a joke up until the very present day. Howe seriously we are meant to take "one of nature's mistakes" possibly depends upon the attitude of the rest of the film - is it lexical exuberance or a normative put-down.

Both of the characters in “The Soilers” and “A Wanderer of the West” show definite male on male interest, are more than merely sissy. Which is more than they'll be allowed to get away for quite a few decades after this. Even if that attraction is nothing more than a comic nuisance.



“The Dude Wrangler”, 1930
From “Screened Out” by Richard Barrios, 2003
(Although just tyoing the words “dude wrangler” makes me fear what sort of internet searches are going to be lured here.)
Barrios states that no print exists.
Such précis as exists, suggests that the lead was Wally McCann who played an effete naïf fish-out-of-water who learns how to be a cowboy.



“The Tenderfoot” 1932
From “Screened Out” by Richard Barrios, 2003
A real cowboy, Joe E. Brown, visists the big city, and mistakes a bunch of chorus boy boys for other real cowboys, a misunderstanding that is put right when they shoot out “whoooo” and hail him with some very limp wrists.

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